The waterfowl hunting season is winding down. Swan hunting closed last week, but there are a few weeks left to hunt ducks and geese.

Zone 1, the northern region, will reopen for part two of a split season and remain open through Jan. 1. Zone 2, the southern region, reopened on Saturday and will remain open through Jan. 10.The goose hunt closes Jan. 8.

In review, this has been, overall, one of the best hunting seasons since the flooding of the Great Salt Lake back in the 1980s.

There were, as Tom Aldrich, waterfowl coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, points out, "a lot of ducks and geese this year . . . Overall, this has been an excellent hunting season."

Right now, however, waterfowl numbers are down. The early freeze pushed most of the birds south.

Aldrich said flights over the marshes this week showed total numbers down, but that there were still birds around.

About 95 percent of the marshes along the Great Salt Lake are frozen.

"We've lost the majority of our birds. There are small areas of open water near inflows and outflows, and ice holes out in the middle in some places," he added. "In some of those places there are still pretty good numbers of ducks and geese."

He reported:

At Farmington Bay on Unit 1, there were good numbers of ducks in the middle of the bay.

Ogden Bay looked the best of all hunt areas. Units 1 and 3 had a lot of ducks, as does the secondary units. There are especially good numbers of ducks and geese on Unit 1 where the water flows out.

Most of the Harold Crane area is frozen and there are not many birds.

There is one big open area on Willard Spur with good numbers of ducks, geese and swans.

The north end of Salt Creek is open and there are good numbers of birds there. There are only a few birds on Public Shooting Grounds.

As typically happens at this time of year, when the water freezes and the mornings are cold, ducks and geese change their flight habits. Instead of moving in the mornings and evenings, most of the movement occurs mid-day.

This, too, is a time when conventional hunting methods are stored for more imaginative ways, such as moving out and hunting from the ice.

Hunters set their decoys on the ice in an pattern that draws the birds to where they sits, dressed in white and covered by a white sheet.

"The one thing hunters need to be careful of is the ice conditions. Not all ice is thick enough to hold a person. Also, they shouldn't get too close to open areas without testing the ice," he pointed out.

While final counts have not been made, Aldrich believes that based on early figures, overall hunting pressure will be up between 10 to 15 percent this year.

Looking at the bag limits, most of the birds taken, as expected, have been pintail, mallards and greenwing teal. He expects this to continue over the remainder of the season.

Swan hunting is over and Aldrich believes success this year for the 2,500 permit holders will be up.

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"Last year the swans sat on the Bear River refuge most of the season and didn't move. This year they moved. This year there was food available both on and off the refuge and this got the birds up and moving. This resulted in better hunting opportunity for hunters," he said.

Goose hunting the past several years has been good. Aldrich said he would call this year's hunt "about normal for Utah."

Where duck hunting involves being in the right place at the right time, good goose hunting requires a little scouting. That is, tracking the pattern of the geese and then going back to a likely area and hoping the geese decide to do the same thing.

The limit on duck is four and the limit on geese is two Canadian. Those hunters unsure of hunting times and bag limits should check the 1994 waterfowl proclamation.

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